Mayor Mark Sutcliffe vows to leave divisiveness of past councils behind

Councillors wait to sign their official oaths of office in council chambers on Tuesday. (Frederic Pepin/CBC - image credit)
Councillors wait to sign their official oaths of office in council chambers on Tuesday. (Frederic Pepin/CBC - image credit)

The largest Ottawa city council ever was sworn in Tuesday, with newly elected Mayor Mark Sutcliffe calling on his 24 council colleagues to put the divisiveness of the past behind them..

"The election is over," Sutcliffe said in his inaugural speech, delivered in both English and French at city hall. "We all faced tough battles and each of us was successful. It's now up to us, each of us on city council, to represent not just those who voted for us, but all residents of the city."

Indeed, the new mayor looked to be trying to usher in a new era of togetherness. After the formal council photo was taken, Sutcliffe gathered the 23 members present — councillors Laura Dudas and Clarke Kelly were absent — for a group selfie. As each councillor stepped up to sign their oath of office, the mayor gave them all a hug.

Almost half of the 25-member council is new, including the mayor — although Riverside South-Findlay Creek ward Coun. Steve Desroches has previously served two terms. That means a steep learning curve for many, including Sutcliffe, who still hasn't named a chief of staff or other permanent members of the mayor's office. It's also still not clear when the first council meeting will be held.

Frederic Pepin/CBC
Frederic Pepin/CBC

The inauguration ceremonies were held at city hall for the first time since 2006, with the swearing-in taking place in council chambers, followed by a light luncheon reception in Jean Pigott Hall. Members of OrKidstra, a program that teaches music to young people from under-served areas of the city, performed during the ceremony. The organization is close to the heart of the new mayor, who used to sit on OrKidstra's board of directors.

Kate Porter/CBC
Kate Porter/CBC

In his speech, the mayor recognized the new council is facing a number of major issues, including the results of the LRT inquiry due by the end of this month, formulating a 2023 budget — presumably based on a 2.5-per cent property tax increase, as promised by Sutcliffe — and the ramifications of the provincially imposed housing Bill 23 that could rob the city of millions of dollars in fees.

Frederic Pepin/CBC
Frederic Pepin/CBC

But Tuesday was mostly about new beginnings and optimism about what could be accomplished in the long term.

"In this time of urgency and immediacy and distractions and diversions, it's hard. It's hard to remain focused on a long-term vision," said Sutcliffe. "But, if we commit to the next 20 years and not on the next 20 minutes, if we focus on social progress and not social media, if we focus on diversity and not division, we can truly build a better future for everyone."

Infogram
Infogram